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TWO POEMS BY JAMES SHEPPARD

ALL OF YOUR DEMONS ARE IMAGINARY-EXCEPT ME BY SAM JOWETT
November 24, 2018
Two Poems by Brian Alan Ellis
November 27, 2018

To catch a muscle

 

A bellow away from drowning

 

To catch a muscle

There’s a hair in my mussels, seafood: never liked them squished or filled, a space in
between fullest and emptied. Or I never began to eat the sea’s muscles, I ate corn popped
after it was rolled into an extended tractor’s gears. There are two words for to begin in
German: beginnen and anfangen. How do I begin to consume a shell’s guts when I must
first choose how the beginning should be expressed? Begin in comfort with the option
springing from my language’s older relative, beginnen. And who was the first to say
‘begin’ or the jumbled sounds that became ‘begin’? A newspaper drips on top of my
head, and I begin to turn over each wall until words rest in my lungs. Verwandlung,
change of scene. And the uncomfortable, the foreign form of beginning, lays in the hand.
The beginning is always foreign, black smudge that is scraped off with the edge of a coin.
Endlich muss man anfangen. The root looked to be a fang after the plant turned to bone.
Five roots clutching the soil the same way a hand might reach out to catch a running arm.
Catching on to something is a way of beginning, anfangen. Or is it a haul, a Fang in the
German meaning? The orange overalls haul in the fish from each trap, hauling muscles
too deep to catch in the hand, lay next to the uncomfortable. One muscle’s end is another
early morning for the fisherman. Maybe we begin again each time a fish is caught, every
net a haul aboard, a hauling ass back to the dock for a change of scenery. I dip back
into water and am reminded of a beginning long gone, where I was hauled from a wave
and began again in intervals. Ich fange an, I catch by sand and glass and the little things
looked over in beginnings. The sea hauls me and I begin the sea. Its muscles float near
mine, mouths agape toward the seaweed catching twisted propellors—not full or empty.

A bellow away from drowning

The sea is the only personality in the night to move objects with purpose, taking more
shore away from those unsure of where they stand—not in sand. What kind of day is it,
when you see a pair of arms waving at you in the middle of blue? A sailboat slid away
from me and I knew I might become a pair of arms for the sea, a squiggle on the surface
before falling out of place, gone into fear. And what kind of sailor am I, when I can’t
even go down with the ship? I lost the ship, baby blue floated me away until my eyelids
went numb. And I thought of the train in the cold, the dirty silver picking me up from the
Hundertwasser Haus, an underwater villa. And I should have become a mailman with a
solid route, door from door, not to forget the blue uniform and the pension plan. It’s
an impossible way home the way I think, never seeing what’s before me, only the images
I’ve placed before myself. My end looks to be a graverobbing out of the sea, a net lifting
me from the water all mangled and seaweed-y. So many times I have looked without
seeing, heard without tying the spoken words together to sling around my earlobe.
What’s the difference between dirt and water? A sense of false security in hiding secrets
and knowing where said secrets are or are not wandering. Secrets of the sea are refugees,
wandering from sea clove to sea clove seeking protection. But I am no refugee fleeing
in a glass bottle taking on water due to a broken cork, my body is a bottle and my boat
is gone. And so I bob, up and down, until I can bob no more and my arms weaken at the
elbows, little peninsulas waving in the air. Waves bellow and recede into each other,
fold my head in the night. I will not be found in this mess, will not be rolled to rock
by the crushed sea cloves at the tips of each wave. My body will recede, below in depths.

 

 


James Sheppard is a master’s student in Austrian Studies at the University of Vienna in Austria. Before studying in Vienna, James was an English Language Teaching Assistant for two years in secondary schools in Austria. Originally born in proximity to a wharf in Newport, RI, James spent life after age three in Evanston, IL, where liked to look out at Lake Michigan. After high school, he went to Knox College, where he studied philosophy (but not in a pretentious way), German, and started writing poems. In his spare time, James learns Czech and goes to the movies.